Saddam Hussein’s formerly secret FBI interviews released

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Saddam Hussein speaking at a pre-trial hearing.An anonymous tipster sent along an interesting bit: The FBI has released a portion of the written interview summaries of Saddam Hussein by Special Agent Piro.

The 132-page document includes:

  • Saddam’s thoughts on his greatest accomplishment: “The social programs for the citizens of Iraq and improvements in other sectors of the economy including enhancements to education, the health care system, industry, agriculture, and other areas that generally enhanced the way of life for Iraqis.”
  • When asked about his own mistakes, he told the interviewer that “All humans make mistakes, and only God is free of error.” But that he would not identify mistakes to an enemy, and the American system of government was his enemy.
  • Saddam wishes that both America and Iraq advance in all areas, “financial, religious, etc.”.
  • Pages and pages of details about coups, the Ba’ath uprising, the early days of the Iraqi revolution, and more.

The document release is 132 pages, but unfortunately is not searchable until somebody takes some OCR software to it. You can download it directly from the FBI (warning: PDF).

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No more ‘Killing Granny’: A new way to track what’s actually in government documents

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Killing granny or killer Granny?
Last week, I wrote about ProPublica’s Health Care Bill Comparison app, which elegantly took on the task of showing people just what was changing, and how, in the health care bill’s final days and hours. It’s an incredibly important task, since the bill weighed in at over 1,000 pages and it’s often in the final revisions that pork-barrel projects find there way in or out.

But with bills generally seeing multiple revisions, it’s easy to lose track of what exactly was or is included in a bill and when it was added, taken out, or even re-added. The results can be disastrous when it comes to reasoned discourse, as the League of Technical Voters’ founder Silona Bonewald notes in a recent piece for O’Reilly Radar:

Commenting on these types of documents as they are currently implemented is extremely challenging. Pointing a finger at that big pond and telling someone that you swear you saw a fish isn’t very effective. It’s even worse when someone swears they saw a fish that isn’t really there and it is effective because no one is willing to refute them. No one has time to wade around themselves and so they take it on faith. The recent “killing grandma” scare is an excellent example.

So the league has created an advanced citability solution, Citability.org, that tracks changes and makes sure that it’s easy to see how your political sausage is made, and who is putting in what ingredients.

Two great podcasts on two great news apps that explore government information

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Of all the recent media startups, few have come with the gravitas of ProPublica, a non-profit currently helmed by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. With ample foundational funding and partnerships with organizations ranging from the New York Times and CNN to Politico and Reader’s Digest, it’s wasted no time in doing important, in-depth journalistic work.

They also have a great podcast series in which Mike Webb interviews ProPublica staff.

In episode 6, Mike interviews Jennifer LaFleur about her work developing Recovery Tracker 3.0, a tool that aims to help the public tracker every stimulus dollar spent. For example, you can see how the $1,368,268,456 targeted at Middlesex County, MA is being spent, broken down by agency and department:

Or you can dive even deeper, and look at individual stimulus contracts.

In all, it’s an immense amount of financial data that LaFleur and her team made easily digestible without dumbing it down, and as she remarks in the podcast in many areas it’s more complete than the government’s own database at Recover.gov.

Mike Webb also interviewed Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Scott Klein for a podcast on how the former pair’s Health Care Bill Comparison News App came together, from the inception of the idea over a coffee break to finished product just a few weeks later. While the app itself is relatively simple, it’s a quick, clean way to find and understand a myriad of changes occurring in what could be the most landmark legislation of the decade, legislation that was knocked back and forth so many times there’s a good chance most of the senators voting for and against it weren’t fully aware of what they were voting on.

Jeff’s execution of the application is elegant, and as they note on the podcast, it became a hot tool while the bill was actually on the floor as both pundits and the public tried to figure out what, exactly, this monumental legislation included.

Know of other great government data resources, whether state or federal? Let me know at Michael@MuckRock.com, and we’ll share the knowledge with the rest of our community.